White-tailed Shrike, Damaraland.
White-tailed Shrike, Damaraland.

Introduction: 

Unique in many ways, from its birdlife to its history and scenery, Namibia has for a long time been a country which holds great fascination for birders. Although Namibia is home to only a single true endemic species, the Dune Lark, a large number of near-endemics and specials may be found within its borders. Many of these occur only in the north-western parts of Southern Africa or south-western parts of Angola, making Namibia one of the best places to see a host of special bird species. During this trip we aim to target the most important core species in this country within a relatively short period of time. We will search the ochre sand dunes of the Namib Desert for Dune Lark, the barren gravel plains for the sought-after Ludwig’s Bustard and Burchell’s Courser before we reach the shorebird metropolis of Walvis Bay, where we’ll spend a great deal of time sifting through the vast numbers of migrants in search of vagrant waders alongside some of the more regular species. From there we head inland to the Erongo Mountains to look for specials such as Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Herero Chat and Damara Rockrunner, before heading north to Etosha National Park where both birds and wildlife are abundant. Our final destination will be the Waterberg Plateau where Rüppell’s Parrot and Violet Wood-Hoopoe are found alongside more widespread species in an area of fantastic scenery. From there we head back to Windhoek where the tour will come to an end after a rewarding experience that should see most of the essential Namibian specials on our lists.

16 – 28 November 2019 (12 nights / 13 days)

Starts in Windhoek on the morning of the 16th November 2019 from late morning arrival flights. Tour ends in Windhoek on the afternoon of the 28th November 2019 in time for afternoon flights back to Johannesburg (and evening transcontinental flights). Please check with us before booking any flights.

2019: ZAR 54 220 per person sharing, ZAR 3 700 single supplement

Price subject to change based on external factors. Price is based on a minimum of 4 participants. Small group surcharge will be levied for groups smaller than 4 participants. Please contact us for more detail.

Includes
• Accommodation
• All breakfasts, lunches and dinners
• Entrance fees
• Ground transport
• Bottled water in Lawson’s vehicle whilst travelling
• Personalised checklists
• Specialist guide fees

Excludes
• All airfares
• Travel and medical insurance
• All drinks
• Optional excursions where applicable
• Gratuities
• Items of a personal nature

Note
• This itinerary is subject to change due to weather conditions at the time and other factors beyond our control.
• The species mentioned in the itinerary represent only some of the possible ones we may see on the tour, however, none of these can be guaranteed even though every effort will be made where possible to locate them. A full list of possibles appears on your checklist.

Group size: maximum of 12 participants, 1 guide per 6 participants.

Areas visited: Windhoek, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund, Erongo, Etosha, Waterberg.

Expected weather conditions: the interior will by hot and mildly humid this time of year, whilst the areas along the coast and in the Namib Desert such as Sossusvlei can be cold in the evening. There is a chance of rain in Etosha and Erongo.

Tour tempo: medium to medium-plus, optional mid-day breaks at certain points (advisable on hot days), a few long drives where we’ll be out for most of the day.

Accommodation standards: medium plus; guest houses and lodges.

Birding in brief: good variety of habitats; a mix of Desert, Bushveld, Semi Desert and coastal lagoons.

Top birds: Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Herero Chat, Rüppell’s Korhaan, Gray’s Lark, Violet Wood-hoopoe, Dune Lark, Damara Tern, Martial Eagle, Damara Rockrunner and Rosy-faced Lovebird.

Mammal viewing: good game viewing in areas with special species such as Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, Damara Dik-Dik, Kaokoveld Rock Hyrax, Black-backed Jackal and Oryx. Etosha offers a good selection of big game including African Elephant, Lion, Black Rhinoceros, Southern Giraffe and ‘Black-faced’ Impala.

Other wildlife and attractions: the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund Town, Etosha National Park, Spitzkoppe and the Welwitschia Welwitschia mirabilis.

Add-ons: this tour can be combined with the Kruger National Park, Victoria Falls or Cape Town.

Essential Namibia Birding map
Start / end Hosea Kutako Int Airport. 1: Windhoek. 2: Sossusvlei. 3: Swakopmund. 4: Erongo Wilderness. 5: Etosha Okaukeujo. 6: Etosha Namutoni. 7: Waterberg.

Day 1: Windhoek
After arriving in Windhoek around mid-day, and after getting everything packed into the vehicles, we’ll start making our way to our accommodation for the evening in order to get settled in. Along the way we’ll start encountering new birds such as Pale Chanting Goshawk, Black-chested Prinia and Namaqua Dove, and the property where we’ll be staying affords some wonderful birding on the grounds. After reaching our lodge, we’ll have a pleasant lunch with a bit of time to get to know each other and relax before setting out for a nice afternoon stroll to start adding to our list. A number of widespread yet interesting birds will be encountered, such as Red-eyed Bulbul, Acacia Pied Barbet, Chestnut-vented Titbabbler, Grey Go-Away-Bird and possibly even Rosy-faced Lovebird, whilst the skies above play host to Common Swift, Alpine Swift and the much sought after Bradfield’s Swift, with Windhoek itself being a good location to track down this species. Depending on the group, we may opt to have a walk around the nearby Avis Dam, where a host of excellent species may be found, including Monteiro’s Hornbill, Damara Rockrunner, Dusky Sunbird, Scaly-feathered Finch and the exquisite Violet-eared Waxbill. Eventually we’ll return to our lodge for a bit of time to relax before dinner and a good sleep in preparation of a long day’s birding to come.

Day 2: Sossusvlei
We’ll be up early and will head out with a packed breakfast in order to maximize the cooler hours of the early morning. Our route will take us across the incredibly scenic Hakos Mountains, with a plethora of fascinating species along the way, and we should find Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Mountain Wheatear, Pririt Batis, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Barred Wren-Warbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Red-billed Spurfowl. Of interest on the route will be the massive Sociable Weaver nests, whilst we may possibly encounter the diminutive Pygmy Falcon, a tiny raptor which associates very closely with Sociable Weavers and their nests. We’ll eventually cross the scenic Rantberg Mountains via the Spreetshoogte Pass, where we’ll focus on searching for Herero Chat, a scarce species that is very easily overlooked due to its inconspicuous habits, and although Cinnamon-breasted Warbler occurs here, a bit of luck will be needed to locate a pair of these beautiful little birds. The Spreetshoogte Pass will also hopefully provide us with the chance to see a few interesting mammals, with Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra the most sought-after species, whilst Kudu, Klipspringer and Chacma Baboon also occur in the region. After crossing through the mountains we’ll drop down onto the coastal plain where the vegetation will become progressively more arid and sparse. This habitat change means we can start searching for a new range of species from this point on, and the sparse grasslands may turn up Stark’s Lark, Ludwig’s Bustard, Rüppell’s Korhaan, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and Common Ostrich, whilst with a some luck we may encounter the scarce and highly nomadic Burchell’s Courser. We’ll slowly amble south towards our accommodation near Sossusvlei where we’ll have a two night stay, expecting to arrive late the afternoon with enough time to get settled in and relax before dinner.

Day 3: Sossusvlei
We’ll have an early start today as we take along a packed breakfast for our morning excursion to explore the spectacular Sossusvlei. After entering the gate near Sesriem, we’ll start searching for a variety of species such as Ludwig’s Bustard, Namaqua Sandgrouse, and Burchell’s Courser, with our main target for the day being Namibia’s only true endemic, the Dune Lark, with this attractive species being fairly regularly encountered here as they run from one patch of scrub to the next, quietly feeding along the edges. Along the way we’ll stop at several well known sites such as Dune 45, before finally completing the drive through to the actual Sossusvlei. The scenery here is quite magnificent and we’ll spend some time wandering around and simply enjoying the features of the area, such as the nearby Deadvlei, and for the highly energetic, attempting a climb up Big Daddy Dune is also an option. We’ll return to camp late in the morning, by which time the temperature will start to climb and we’ll spend the hottest part of the day after lunch relaxing in our rooms and enjoying the wonderful view. In the afternoon we’ll visit the nearby Sesriem Canyon and Elim Dune, where Dune Lark also may be found, before setting off for sundowners close to camp, when we can admire the incredible desert scenery in the light of the setting sun.

Day 4: Swakopmund
We’ll start things a bit later than usual today, and after an early morning stroll in the vicinity of the lodge we’ll sit down for breakfast before packing up and making our way to our next destination, the coastal town of Swakopmund. The road there will hold many of the same species previous days, although as we get closer to Walvis Bay we’ll eventually enter the true Namib Desert, and it’s here that species such as Tractrac Chat and Gray’s Lark may be found. We’ll also keep an eye out for the fascinating Namaqua Chameleon Chamaeleo namaquensis, a fairly common and somewhat incongruous inhabitant of these stark and barren plains. We should arrive at Swakopmund around mid-afternoon, and after getting settled in, we may opt to head out to the north of town for a short while to bird around the Mile 4 Salt Works where our wader list will increase significantly as we search for Chestnut-banded, Grey and Common Ringed Plovers, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt and Little Stint, whilst large numbers of Terns also arrive here during the late afternoon and we should easily find Common, Arctic, Swift and Sandwich Terns. The site also has a reputation for turning up a few interesting species from time to time, with Common Redshank usually present, and Franklin’s Gull, American Golden Plover and Buff-breasted Sandpiper also possible. We’ll return for a bit of time to relax, checking the open plains for Gray’s Lark along the way back, before heading out for a pleasant dinner in town.

Day 5: Swakopmund
Taking a packed breakfast with us, we’ll be out for a long morning as we head out to explore the region around Walvis Bay towards the south. Birding in the area is mostly confined to the coast, where a range of species occur, although our first stop will be at a guano platform along the way. As we’ll be there fairly early, we should encounter large numbers of Cormorants, with Cape Cormorant being by far the commonest, whilst a bit of searching will be required to locate Crowned and Bank Cormorants amongst the hordes. Another very sought after species to search for here is Damara Tern, with this species occurring regularly but at low densities in the area, with the birds breeding along the base of dunes but they can be seen flying to and from their feeding grounds. Our first aim for the morning will be to visit Rooibank, a small village roughly 20km’s inland along the edge of the Kuiseb River, where our target will be Namibia’s only true endemic species, Dune Lark, a rather attractive bird (for a Lark), with the birds being fairly common here although difficult to locate when not displaying. A walk through the dune fields will also allow us to observe a few of the fascinating species of ‘Tenebrionid’ or Darkling Beetles, with Onymacris unguicularis being fairly common, and the small but fast Zophosis triangulifera occurring higher up on the dunes. We’ll return to Walvis Bay from here, where we’ll again focus on coastal birding, and we’ll start off birding along the esplanade, where Lesser and Greater Flamingos occur alongside huge numbers of waders such as Curlew Sandpiper, Red Knot, Sanderling, Little Stint, Common Greenshank, Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Whimbrel and possibly Eurasian Curlew. We’ll then visit the Walvis Bay Salt Works, where we may find Red-necked Phalarope, a regular vagrant to Southern Africa, whilst large rafts of Black-necked Grebe are also regularly seen here alongside more regular waders, and occasionally Black Tern. Time permitting we may quickly scan the ocean from the end of the Paaltjies road where Sooty Shearwater, White-chinned Petrel and Parasitic Jaeger may be seen. We’ll return to Walvis Bay for lunch along the esplanade, where Damara Tern may be seen alongside the more common Terns and Gulls such as Hartlaub’s and Kelp Gull, Common Tern, Swift, Sandwich and Caspian Tern. From here we’ll make our way back to Swakopmund, where we’ll have some time to relax before doing some birding nearby in the late afternoon to search for any species we may still be missing.

Day 6: Erongo Wilderness
We’ll have a slightly more relaxed start today and after breakfast at the guest house we’ll leave the coast behind us and make our way into the desert where we’ll continue our exploration of this fascinating country. We’ll do some roadside birding, searching for species such as Tractrac Chat, Stark’s Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark and Chat Flycatcher, whilst a quick roadside stop may produce Rüppell’s Korhaan, Karoo Chat and Karoo Long-billed Lark, Yellow-bellied Eremomela and with luck, Karoo Eremomela. Along the way we’ll make a detour towards the spectacular Spitzkoppe, arguably Namibia’s most famous natural landmark, with the Granite massif domineering over the surrounding desert plains. The birding here is also excellent with a range of species to be seen, with the primary target being the range restricted Herero Chat, although a fair amount of luck and effort will be needed to locate this relatively unobtrusive species. Other birds we’ll look for are Namaqua Sandgrouse, Rüppell’s Korhaan, Common Scimitarbill, Monteiro’s Hornbill and Dusky Sunbird. At Spitzkoppe itself we’ll search for Rosy-faced Lovebird, White-tailed Shrike, Great Sparrow, Augur Buzzard, Bradfield’s Swift and Layard’s Titbabbler. Eventually we’ll continue along towards the Erongo Mountains, possibly stopping at a nearby hill along the way to search for Herero Chat should we still need this species, and aim to arrive at our accommodation early afternoon. After a bit of time to relax, we’ll have a short afternoon stroll along one of the footpaths, with a sundowner stop complete with fantastic view over the surrounding terrain to end off the day. Our stroll also gives us an opportunity to find a few of the specials, with Damara Rockrunner occurring at higher densities here compared to most other places, whilst there is a chance of finding the much sought after Hartlaub’s Spurfowl. From here we’ll stroll back to camp, and after freshening up, we’ll meet for a lovely dinner, where the floodlit waterhole should also provide us with views of Freckled Nightjar, a species we should hear regularly during the evenings.

Day 7: Erongo Wilderness
We’ll have a full day to explore the wonderful surroundings of the Erongo, and we’ll focus this morning on locating the shy Hartlaub’s Spurfowl. There are several resident pairs in the vicinity of the lodge and this site offers one of the best opportunities to locate this species, mainly due to the fact that they spend the early morning calling from exposed points. During the morning we should be able to locate a host of other interesting species, with White-tailed Shrike usually present as they actively hop around on the ground, whilst Carp’s Tit are regularly encountered in pairs, constantly foraging from one tree to the next. In addition, Monteiro’s and Damara Red-billed Hornbills, Black-faced and Violet-eared Waxbills, Pririt Batis, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Kalahari Scrub-Robin and Yellow-bellied Eremomela may be seen, and we may have views of the resident Verreaux’s Eagle pair. After a late brunch, we’ll head out to bird some of the surrounding areas where we hope to find birds such as Southern Pied Babbler, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Rüppell’s Parrot and possibly Peregrine Falcon. After some time to relax we’ll spend the late afternoon exploring the area on foot, searching for new species such as White-throated and Black-throated Canaries, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater.

Day 8: Etosha National Park, Okaukuejo
We’ll have an easy start to the day, although if we missed Hartlaub’s Spurfowl the previous day we’ll have another early walk before returning for breakfast and making our way north to world renowned Etosha National Park. We’ll be based here for four nights, giving us ample time to explore the numerous small roads that cross this fascinating reserve. We’ll enter the park at Anderson Gate and make our way directly to our first camp, Okaukuejo, where we’ll be based for the next two nights. After getting settled in at the end of what would have been a fairly lengthy drive, we’ll spend a bit of time relaxing and having a stroll across to the waterhole alongside camp to see what’s around. Game viewing can be excellent, although after the first rains they do disperse a bit, even so, we could easily see a multitude of species such as Gemsbok, Springbok, Plains Zebra, Blue Wildebeest and the distinctive ‘Black-faced’ Impala. We’ll meet up again for a short drive late the afternoon in order to see what we can find before the end of the day with species such as Scaly-feathered Finch, Sociable Weaver, Violet-eared Waxbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver being regularly seen, and hopefully a few additional raptors with Gabar Goshawk and Pygmy Falcon occurring in the vicinity. We’ll return for dinner, and for those who interested, a bit of time at the floodlit waterhole may turn up Rufous-cheeked Nightjar and Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl alongside some interesting mammals, with African Wild Cat and Black-backed Jackal being found here regularly, and with some luck Black Rhino could also be seen coming down for a drink.

Day 9: Etosha National Park, Okaukuejo
We’ll be up early exploring the region towards the west of camp initially, where we hope to find Double-banded Courser, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Kori Bustard and Southern Ant-Eating Chat, while a host of larks will hopefully be added to our list. The thick-billed form of Sabota Lark, sometimes treated as a separate species, Bradfield’s Lark, may be seen alongside Spike-heeled, Eastern Clapper, Red-capped and possibly Pink-billed Larks. Raptors are also well represented, with Tawny Eagle, Black-chested Snake-Eagle, Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Gabar Goshawk, Martial Eagle, White-backed, Lappet-faced and White-headed Vultures all being possible. We’ll return for breakfast after which we’ll spend some time birding around camp where we may stumble upon roosting Pearl-spotted Owlet and African Scops-Owl, before spending the hottest time of the day relaxing or getting comfortable on one of the benches at the waterhole. Our afternoon will be spent exploring towards the south-east of camp, trying to find a few new species such as Barred Wren-Warbler and Red-necked Falcon, and also hopefully a few of the large carnivores including Lion and Spotted Hyena for which this park is so famous. We’ll return for dinner, after which there’s the option of a night drive, on which there’s a chance of seeing nocturnal species such as Small Spotted Genet, Lesser Galago, Lion and possibly even Leopard, Honey Badger, Cape Porcupine and African Wildcat, with Spotted Thick-knee also being possible.

Day 10: Etosha National Park, Namutoni
We’ll start the day once more with a short morning drive in the area around camp to search for any additional species, before returning for breakfast and loading all our gear into the vehicle as we move to Namutoni Camp, situated in the south-eastern sector of the park where we’ll spend the next two nights. The drive will take a large part of the day as we slowly search the surrounding bush and open plains for a variety of species, arriving at Halali Camp for lunch and a short birding walk in the camp itself. We’ll search here for a few specific species, with Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Rüppell’s Parrot and Bare-cheeked Babbler being the most sought after, although other birds such as African Hawk-Eagle are also often seen in this area and would be a welcome additions to our list. Afterwards we’ll complete the last section of the drive through to Namutoni, arriving around mid to late afternoon. Depending on the time we arrive, we will either decide to relax for the last part of the afternoon or head out for a short drive to the north of camp where, should the pan have sufficient water, we’ll find good numbers of waterfowl, with Cape Teal and Cape Shoveler often being present.

Day 11: Etosha National Park, Namutoni
We’ll start the day with an early morning drive from camp, heading southwards where we’ll search for the scarce Black-cheeked Babbler, with this being one of the only areas within the park that affords us a chance of finding this species. This route may alos produce the diminutive Damara Dikdik, a fascinating antelope species known as Kirk’s Dikdik in East Africa, with this race being confined to the dry regions of Namibia and Southern Angola. After returning to camp for breakfast, we’ll set off on another drive around Fischer’s Pan, and depending on water levels, the pan can be excellent for Waterfowl and waders, and we’ll search for some widespread species such as Cape, Red-billed and Hottentot Teals, Cape Shoveller, White-faced and Fulvous Ducks, whilst the flooded grassy margins may turn up Greater Painted-Snipe, along with Little Stint, Wood Sandpiper and Marsh Sandpiper. Bushveld species are also well represented and we hope to locate Chestnut Weaver, a species that is not always present but usually arrives well after the start of the rainy season, and with the lush vegetation, may be joined by good numbers of Red-billed Queleas. After returning to camp for lunch we’ll spend some time relaxing during the hottest part of the day, before we set off for another afternoon drive to the north of camp aiming to visit the Andoni Plains to search for Blue Crane and Kori Bustard, before slowly ambling back to camp for dinner and our last night in Etosha.

Day 12: Waterberg Plateau
We’ll be up for another early morning drive in the vicinity of camp, hoping to add a few species to our lists before returning for breakfast and packing up our gear for the drive through to the Waterberg for our last night. The drive there will take a good few hours and we’ll pass through the town of Otjiwarongo along the way, where we’ll stop for lunch, after which we’ll have a quick visit to the water treatment works where we may locate African Swamphen, White-winged Tern, African Reed-Warbler, Lesser Swamp-Warbler and Black Crake. Afterwards we’ll drive through to the Waterberg where we’ll spend our last night. After arriving we’ll get settled in with a bit of time to relax before we head out for a late afternoon drive on the property where we should encounter species such as Black-chested Prinia, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Magpie Shrike, Rüppell’s Parrot and Violet Wood-Hoopoe, with a stop for sundowner drinks on our last full day in this beautiful country. We’ll return for dinner, hopefully encountering some nocturnal species such as Spotted Eagle-Owl and Rufous-cheeked Nightjar along the way, before settling in for a good night’s sleep.

Day 13: Departure
We’ll start the day with an early morning birding walk along a few of the trails in the area, where we’ll hopefully encounter the sought after Damara Rockrunner, and although Hartlaub’s Spurfowl occurs here, it is fairly scarce and some luck will be needed to locate this species. Other birds we hope to encounter include Violet-eared Waxbill, Red-faced Mousebird, Striped Kingfisher and Bennett’s Woodpecker, before returning for breakfast and finally making our way back to Windhoek where we’ll say our final goodbyes at the end of wonderful journey through the fascinating country of Namibia.

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